Snoqualmie Falls, Washington
The mist rising from the stone pit where Washington State's 270-foot Snoqualmie Falls smash into the Snoqualmie River mixes with the fog that spends every morning hanging from the Douglas firs at cliff's edge. The sound of the water beating against the water resonates across the valley like the purr of a large cat, a deep trill audible over the clink of china in the Salish Lodge's dining room, where brunch means boulder-sized biscuits, massive buttermilk pancakes, and generous portions of lavender brioche. The lodge, famous for playing The Great Northern Hotel on the pilot episode of 'Twin Peaks,' peeks out over the falls along with the tourists that come here – at a rate of over a million a year – to snap photos. But, despite the constant clicking and the erosive grind of the water, this is a peaceful place – a stronghold of the Pacific Northwestern elegance.
Originally constructed in 1916 as an eight-room rest stop for travelers, the lodge grew with the town of Snoqualmie, which became a major logging hub in the thirties when the Weyerhaeuser Corporation arrived in the thick forest. The lodge is a little outside town – over a river and through a sliver of woods to be exact – but it shares a peaceful frontier ambience. The interior is all dark wood and stone and each room is dominated by an overstuffed bed warmed by a fireplace. In summer, temperatures dip just low enough at night to justify stoking the flames. The whole place smells of recently fallen pine needles.
The lodge's location, sandwiched between the river and Rt. 202, has advantages and disadvantages. The sweeping views from the wraparound deck are hard to beat, but guests probably won't want to hike into the Cascades directly from their room – even though blackberries thrive by the side of the busy road. Instead, visitors can drive upstream toward the public recreation areas beneath Mount Si and the trails leading up the rugged 4,167-foot peak. After a long day on the hoof or the river, tourists are almost obligated to head to the Woodsman's Lodge, a triumphant tribute to aging taxidermy and rare meat.
And then it's back to the comfort of Salish and the contented rumble of the falls. The air gets damp and colder, but there is plenty of flannel and the house-made honey ale on tap in The Attic bar is just sweet enough to fight a chill.
More information: The Salish Lodge is a half an hour east of Seattle on Rt. 90. Rooms start at $209 a night.